Stephen Peters, Marine Spouse and President, American Military Partner Association
Moving every two to three years brings many new beginnings to the “average” military spouse. From new jobs, new homes, new friends, new schools, new neighbors… the list could go on and on. But for those of us who happen to be the same gender as our service member, these “new beginnings” bring so many more uncertainties and frustrations, especially in states that don’t recognize our marriage.
First, there’s the never-ending saga of having to “come out” all over again. Imagine if every time you met someone new, you had to choose whether to correct the person who asks about your wife, trying to explain that your spouse is your husband (as in my case), not your wife, or try to judge how your new neighbors are going to react when they find out there is a gay couple living next door.
Second, there are so many areas of uncertainty same-gender couples face in states that don’t recognize their marriages. You see, while the federal government and the Department of Defense recognize our marriage, many states do not. Imagine if while you were on base in North Carolina, you and your spouse were recognized as the married couple you are. You had most of the legal protections and support that you and your family needed. But as soon as you went through the front gate in Texas, all of that disappeared.
Because some states don’t recognize a same sex marriage from PCS to PCS, there are additional frustrations and challenges to our same sex military families.
- Military Spouse Residency Relief Act
MSRRA does not apply to same sex military couples in many states. So we are just out of luck when it comes to the residency, voting, taxes, and property rights protections it’s designed to grant military spouses.
- Higher Education Opportunity Act
HEOA requires state universities and colleges receiving federal funding through the act to give military spouses in-state tuition. Well, that hasn’t stopped some marriage inequality states from completely ignoring the act and denying in-state tuition to gay military spouses.
Third, those of us with children face a heightened set of challenges. Many states do not permit second-parent adoption and some even just straight-out ban gay parent adoption. Imagine if you had to try to figure out a way to simply make sure you were legally recognized as the parent of your child? Needless to say, this has far reaching implications on the ability of our military families to properly care for and protect their children.
One thing is clear, we’ve certainly come a VERY long way in terms of progress for our LGBT military spouses and their families over the last year, but we definitely still have a long way to go. Many LGBT spouses and military members will continue our work in education, advocacy, and support for our newly recognized military spouses. We’ve only gotten as far as we have because of the support of our allies, for which we are incredibly thankful. And with the help of our allies, we will continue to make progress to improve the lives of ALL of our military families who serve our great nation.
Did you know?
- Many states ban second parent and gay parent adoptions, putting the children of LGBT military couples at risk?
- Many gay military spouses are denied in-state tuition in non-marriage equality states?
- In 29 states you can be fired just for being gay?